Lackawanna police chief may face lawsuit

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LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Lackawanna’s police chief is bracing for a lawsuit accusing him of hitting an SUV with an unmarked police vehicle and then leaving the scene.

This legal skirmish stems from a three-car accident last week involving Police Chief James Michel. A Buffalo couple has already gone to court to get a restraining order to preserve the chief’s official SUV as evidence.

According to reports, the accident happened at a stoplight at Ridge Road and Rosary Avenue, when Chief Michel’s SUV struck another SUV, which then struck a third vehicle. The Buffalo couple in the other SUV claim the chief didn’t stop and instead continued on their way.

In their Notice of Claim, Linda and Patrick McDonald, both Buffalo Police officers, say Mrs. McDonald suffered serious and permanent injuries.

Chief Michel wouldn’t go on camera, but he did tell News 4 he was responding to a call of a bank robbery over on Abbott Road when the accident happened, and he recalls there was little to no damage to his city-issued SUV.

The chief says the robbery call came from the First Niagara Bank, which turned out to be one of the targets of what authorities are calling a bank robbery ring, and Chief Michel was among those law enforcement leaders who joined the announcement that the ring had been broken.

There are conflicting accounts in the official police report regarding the accident. One witness saying the chief’s vehicle slid into the McDonald’s SUV. The officer’s notes indicate the chief’s emergency lights were flashing on the unmarked SUV while he was responding to an armed robbery, and he did pass vehicles stopped at a red light.

While the chief’s Ford Explorer might have had minimal damage, witnesses say the McDonald’s SUV required a tow.

The McDonald’s Notice of Claim puts the City of Lackawanna on notice a lawsuit may be filed.. It names Chief Michel, Mayor Geoff Szymanski, and City Attorney Antonio Savaglio.

All three declined to comment, due to pending litigation. The attorney for the McDonald’s, likewise, would not speak on the record.

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